Sustainability and the HOPE Village Initiative

Fact Sheet (PDF)

Project Summary

To support creative redevelopment efforts in Detroit, the Graham Institute partnered with the Detroit-based nonprofit civil and human rights organization Focus: HOPE to conduct the Sustainability and the HOPE Village Initiative Integrated Assessment (IA).

The HOPE Village Initiative is Focus: HOPE's comprehensive, place-based effort that aims to ensure that, by the year 2031, 100% of neighborhood residents will be educationally well-prepared, economically self-sufficient, and living in a safe, supportive environment.

Through collaboration among U-M researchers, Focus: HOPE staff, and community residents, the IA generated data, plans, and recommendations to help Focus: HOPE advance the HOPE Village Initiative and revitalize the neighborhood.

Project Highlights

The Graham Institute funded six interdisciplinary teams to work on a range of environmental, economic, and social issues critical to the HOPE Village Initiative's success including: vacant and open space, housing, education, economic development, built environment, and social perceptions.
HOPE Village Eco-District
According to Debbie Fisher, HOPE Village Initiative Director, “The U-M work supported by the Graham Institute was absolutely essential to our success in being selected as one of the first two EcoDistricts in Detroit. We drew heavily on the fact that an integrated baseline assessment had been completed, and that we had a complete open space inventory and typology in place.” The Eco-D effort supports community-driven plans to foster neighborhood regeneration and sustainability.
The assessment included a wide range of studies and activities:
  • Detailed visioning plans and design 
strategies for open and underutilized space
  • Streetscape plans to make streets safer and more usable
  • Assistance putting Focus: HOPE at the forefront of 
plans for the 26-mile Inner Circle Greenway though 
Detroit, Highland Park, and Hamtramck
  • Options for improving affordable housing availability
  • Master plan to improve and attract investment to the main commercial thoroughfare
  • Options to mobilize a formal, fundable community based educational network
  • Identification of community- 
based skills and assets that can contribute to new economic opportunities
  • Inventories the neighborhood's social and built environments to identify opportunities and track progress

Collaboration was central to the overall IA and the individual research projects. Focus: HOPE’s priorities and feedback guided the work, and the Graham Institute and Focus: HOPE worked to facilitate coordination between the teams, and residents provided valuable insight into neighborhood challenges and opportunities.

To encourage further community involvement with the projects and support the HOPE Village Initiative, the Graham Institute sponsored a community block party so that a wide range of residents could provide input on the projects in a fun, family-friendly setting. The research teams also shared their work and solicited community feedback through a six-week interactive poster display at the neighborhood branch of the Detroit Public Library.

Future Opportunities
Recognizing that the implementation of recommendations will require additional resources, the teams developed project proposals that Focus: HOPE may submit to potential funders. In addition, Graham Institute staff are participating in ongoing meetings with Focus HOPE staff and representatives from Michigan State and Wayne State to determine how to best advance HOPE Village Initiative objectives and create a learning and engagement collaborative.

Many communities in Detroit face the same issues the HOPE Village Initiative aims to address. The scope of these challenges often extends beyond single neighborhoods, but hopefully the results of this IA demonstrate that community level efforts can make a difference locally and may shed light on larger-scale solutions and help lead to widespread change.


Project Teams

Bruce Pietrykowski – Center for Labor & Community Studies, U-M Dearborn
Roland Zullo – Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, & the Economy
Paul Draus – Public Affairs, U-M Dearborn
Juliette Roddy – Public Affairs, U-M Dearborn
María Arquero de Alarcón – Urban Planning and Architecture
Jen Maigret & Craig Borum – Architecture
Robert Grese – Natural Resources & Environment
Lorelle Meadows & Aline Cotel – College of Engineering


For more information, please contact Maggie Allan at (734) 763-0749 or
The Graham Sustainability Institute awarded a total of $180,000 to 6 project teams in 2012.